2.5 / 5 stars
Read in April 2020
Book #1 in Sword Girl series
I don’t think I’ve read a Viking book like this since high school, when I had write my own short story based on what I learned and really enjoyed the process. This novella definitely brought me back to that time, but in a much more fantastical way. Our feisty heroine, Ladda, and her resilient sisters have an otherworldly connection with the gods, communicating with them in dreams and visions.
Hladgertha, or Ladda, is a young woman whose life was ripped apart in a bloody siege. She rises from the ashes to become the new jarl of her people and leads them to a safe haven where they begin to build a new life. She quickly finds that being a leader isn’t as simple as running her village when she becomes entrenched in the kingdom’s political conflicts and wars, recruited by King Ragnar himself. She leaves her sisters and her people behind to ensure they remain safe, yet every step of the way she longs to return home.
I absolutely loved Ladda – her fierce spirit, her courage, her tenacity. She was a ruthless warrior, a caring elder sister, and a loyal friend. I felt her homesickness every step of the way and yearned for her to return to the comfort of her village. I also highlighted many of her quotes, as there were moments I laughed and others I cheered as she boldly took on a room full of men.
The worldbuilding in this book is also very strong, and it’s clear the author did his research. The vocabulary, clothing, food, weapons, religion, and politics truly made Ladda’s world come to life. Whether sailing the seas, surveying the village, or trekking through the forest, I was always right there at Ladda’s side.
Unfortunately, this story was much too short for the amount of content packed into it. Each war against the various kings and rebels could have made up its own novella, or even an entire full-length novel. We see Ladda recover from the loss of her village and lead her people to a new life, go through three romances, and fight in multiple wars all in the span of 120 pages. Because of this, the book seemed like an early draft of a larger novel that would benefit from heavily expanding each part of Ladda’s life including character relationships, political conflicts, and Ladda’s own internal struggles. The ending, especially, wrapped things up very quickly and was incredibly jarring, so instead of being pulled into Ladda’s emotional turmoil I found myself rather confused.
If you’re looking for a quick historical read with a kickass heroine, I’d definitely recommend this novella; if you’re looking for a thrilling Viking epic, unfortunately I’d advise looking elsewhere.
Thank you to the publisher via Netgalley for providing me with this ebook in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.